Moel Hebog

Not a particularly distinguished mountain – it was a fallback option when the weather looked a bit poor to be doing the Watkin path onto Snowdon. However, it was significant for being the last real hill before I was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. I’ll probably write a bit more about that in a later post, but suffice it to say here that an initial illness saw me very jaundiced and poorly, after recovering from which, the chemotherapy very much limited opportunities to get away and keep fit.

Setting off from Llanrwst, where we were staying with my daughter (whose dog, Moose, was coming with us, as well as Teasel, our own bonkers collie) the cloud got lower as we got higher, and by the time we reached the parking at Bethania, we had definitely decided that Snowdon was looking a bit too grim. So, onwards to Beddgelert, and turn right to park by Meillionen, from where we walked through the campsite and over the narrow gauge tracks of the Welsh Highland Railway into the forest. The most direct way to reach the col north of Moel Lefn has a reputation for being exceedlingly boggy, so we kept to forest tracks and took a longer route past Llyn Llywellyn and up to rejoin the original path just east of the col. There was indeed a couple of hundred metres of climb which was wet underfoot, but at this height, there were enough rocks to avoid the worst of the boot-soaking mire.

The ascent from the col north of Moel Lefn

There’s no (public foot-)path here – it’s all Access Land, but in reality an easily followed trod headed up the steep slopes and despite an apparent barrier of craggy ground, led easily enough to the higher slopes and eventually on to Moel Lefn, at 638m, with a view ahead to Moel yr Ogof.

Easy walking along the ridge towards Moel yr Ogof

Yr Ogof ! That’s a name that immediately pricks a caver’s ears up. But apparently the cave, Ogof Owain Glyndwr, as well as being a bit hard to find, is quite a way below the ridge and not really worth a lot of investment of effort – it’s not long enough to get properly out of sight of daylight and has some mineral features which make it sound not entirely a healthy place to explore – so we didn’t. After passing over the 655m summit, a steep descent led down through a narrow gully, to Bwlch Meillionen, where a boggy area at least has a bridge over the wettest bit.

Crossing the bog drainage channel on Bwlch Meillionen, with Moel Hebog rising beyond

It’s about a 250m climb up Moel Hebog from the pass, and it seemed quite unrelenting until a slight levelling off at the very top, when a stone-built trig point hove into view. The top has a really 360° view, and we spent a while here having lunch (I had got quite breathless on the ascent, so any excuse for a rest was welcome). Teasel didn’t stop being bonkers, running around the plateau top almost the whole time we were there, whilst Moose, like me, fancied a more restful experience of the mountaintop.

Moose thinks Mary is his friend, as she has a bag of snacks…

The descent of the northeast spur towards Beddgelert starts off quite vague but follows the black dotted path on the 1:25000 map, and very definitely not the line marked in green as a public footpath which looks as though it might involve roped climbing. It is, however, easy enough to find the correct way, and the skies had cleared somewhat, giving us fine views across the Colwyn valley towards Snowdon.

Heading downwards for the last stretch back to the car.

The “easy” path is steep and loose in places, and there was a gusty wind which, fortunately below the looser part, nearly lifted me off my holds at one point. Luckily, it made enough noise as it came down the hill to ensure that I was clinging on quite firmly by the time it caught me. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a sharp gust anywhere off a summit ridge before and it came as quite a surprise ! Almost as soon as it arrived, it had gone and the rest of the descent went easily enough as the gradient got flatter and the sun sank towards the horizon, leaving only the higher parts of the Snowdon massif catching the light. The slog back along the level trail to Meillionen seemed to drag a bit, but at least there was barely any uphill !

Teasel contemplates how to get down the next short scrambly bit whilst Snowdon bathes in the last of the sun

After 13½ km and 850m of ascent, I felt teh need for easier eaxercise for the rest of ur stay, so the next three days were taken up with shorter walks, on Abergele beach, ascending Little Orme from Llandrillo-yn-Rhos and exploring Sarn Helen before returning home to Teesdale.


… was on the way to Slovenia for kayaking. It was on the way back too, though the weather had gone downhill on the second Saturday. It’s good for reflections – not necessarily kept right way up 😉

It’s difficult to take photos that look any different to ones I’ve seen many times before – avoiding St. Mark’s Square with its immense crowds helps a bit.

Again trying to keep away from the bustling main through routes (especially on a day crowded with eye-poking umbrellas) I was taken with this market-stall-on-a-boat.

Totally eclipsed by clouds

Well, not quite – in fact thin cloud made it possible to look at the sun and moon, at least briefly. Photography was a little less successful as all my really long lenses are from old Contax cameras, with Canon adapters which don’t provide autofocus. The two shots here were taken with a really good quality zoom – Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm, and a rather lower quality 500mm mirror lens from Centon, combined with a Canon x1.4 teleconverter. Manual focus whilst staring at something really quite bright is not ideal, and the tripod was perhaps not as rock steady as these sort of lenses need…

210mm f/32 1/200

The best of the photos with the Vivitar was taken with the smallest aperture, f/32

700mm f/8 1/1600

Like any mirror lens, this one has a fixed aperture, in this case f/8. The “real” aperture would be f/11, since the teleconverter knocks it down a stop (the diameter stays the same, but the focal length goes up).

Alpine light

Our annual ski trip for 2015 was at New Year, and we returned to Mayrhofen. There were days of heavy snowfall, which was great, and one of arctic wind, which wasn’t. Poor weather often means good snow, but combined with piste skiing is often poor for photography, so not much inspiring produced from the days out. However, one day was notable for a power outage over a big chunk of the mountain. Links being what they are, this produced a very large number of skiers at the end of the day at the bottom of slopes which would normally be uncrowded. The resort responded with a lot of extra buses, but with the crowds overflowing onto the roads, getting these turned round was an issue, and being at the very top of the valley, narrow roads were also slowing things down. This would no doubt all have been fine with a bit of marshalling and crowd cooperation, but people were clearly tired, irritable and bored. The number of people behaving in a completely counterproductive and frankly inconsiderate manner eventually got to me, and I just set off to walk, carrying skis, in ski boots, seven miles down the road. Since I use ski touring boots which are designed for a certain amount of walking and climbing, this was not quite as epic as it might sound, though it did take a bit longer than I’d hoped, and the traffic was a bit of a problem with no provision made for pedestrians on most of the road. The light faded, and one good result of all this was a bit of sunset photography. Here’s my favourite:

Winter in Boldron

Taking the dog out first thing in the morning led to quite a few photos at or about sunrise in the winter and this longer-than-usual December walk gave me quite a few nice ones, of which this is probably the best:

Winter sunrise in the village